We asked an expert whether workout clothes belong in the washing machine after every gym session—even if you don’t sweat
Laundry is one of the only downsides to being a gym rat. Why? You have to do a lot of it, often. (In fact, a very full hamper is one of the 24 Inevitable Things That Happen When You Get in Shape.) So any chance you have to lighten the load is more than welcome.
And while we’ll admit to washing our jeans, um, infrequently (read: only when we drop food on them), in general, workout clothes are a different story. After a gym session, you and your gear are sweaty, probably stinky, and more than ready for a good wash.
Yoga clothes, though, fall into a laundry room middle ground. Yes, they’re worn during exercise. But often, yoga classes don’t really leave us dripping in sweat (barring hot yoga, natch). So do leggings really need to be washed after every vinyasa?
According to Dierdre Hooper, M.D., a dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans, the answer is yes. “Bacteria and yeast will rub off on your clothes while you wear them, especially if they’re tight-fitting,” she says. “Many of those bacteria will still be on those clothes the next day—possibly in higher number if they’ve multiplied, which they can do even when the clothes are dry.” Put those clothes back on to stretch in them a second time, and you risk reintroducing the now-fortified bacteria or yeast onto your skin, increasing your likelihood of developing a skin infection or irritation. (For the record, Hooper would likely advise washing even jeans after every wear too. To each her own on that one.)
Another reason re-wearing yoga clothes is chancy: Odor fatigue is a real thing. Even if you conduct a sniff test on the clothes after your first wear, it’s possible that after an hour-long yoga session, you’re accustomed to your own (slight) stink. When you wear them the second time, they may not smell at first—but if you start to sweat even a little, they’ll start to smell twice as bad as normal. And the last thing you want is for the ladies on neighboring mats to subtly start scooting away from you.
Bottom line: Wash Your Workout Clothes (the Right Way) every time.